Can’t Remove Key from Ignition – Auto Repair BlogOctober 5, 2009 11:26 am Consumer, DIY, How To Auto Repair, Jeep
Summary: This auto repair article covers the common problem of “the key being stuck in the ignition.” The shift interlock system is usually the cause of the key being stuck in the ignition lock. We do a general overview of this problem as it is related to a wide range of vehicles and have a specific vehicle, a 2006 Jeep Liberty that has the problem too. As with all vehicle systems, it’s best to have an understanding of how the system works to be able to diagnose the problem properly.
There are several reasons why the key may be unable to be removed from the ignition switch. The ignition lock cylinder could have worn or fallen tumblers, binding the key and preventing it from being removed. In many cases though, the reason will be related to the shift interlock system. Normally the shifter has to be in park before the key is released and is able to be removed from the switch. The shifters that seem to be have the most problems recently (many Chrysler products) – are the ones which are mounted on the floor or in the center console. Some of the shifters today are made with plastic components that sometimes stick and will not spring into the proper position at times. These shifters are also located near cup holders, which pose another potential problem – SPILLED SODA. The gummy residue from spilled drinks can contribute to the problem of sticky shifter mechanisms. You see there is a cable that goes from the shifter to the ignition lock. The cable is called a shift interlock cable – once the shifter is put into the park position a small lever springs into action to move the cable. When the system is working properly, the interlock cable that is hooked up to the ignition lock (where the key goes) pushes an internal mechanism that in turn releases the key.
The vehicle pictured in this article, a 2006 Jeep Liberty four wheel drive; ended up having a problem in the shifter (not the cable) which was servicable only by replacement of the entire shifter assembly part # 1-52125305 AD. There is NO adjustment for the interlock cable on this vehicle. The shifter happened to be an updated part that required an updated interlock cable as well – part # 1-52109779 AG. The newly updated shifter had a smaller retaining area where the cable attaches, which prevented re-using the old inter lock cable. The shifter interlock release lever as stated before, was not springing forward enough to make the cable release the key in the ignition lock. To temporarily release the key, the lever for the interlock cable can be pushed forward with a screwdriver or by hand to allow enough travel for the cable to release the key. *The interlock cable is the smaller one on the left side. If replacing the shifter and installing an updated interlock cable, following the steps below may be helpful. Remove center console to access the shifter assembly. Disconnect the interlock cable and shifter cable from the shift lever assembly. Unplug the electrical connector at the rear of the shifter. Unbolt the four nuts and remove the assembly from the vehicle. Lower the steering column by using the tilt lever. Remove the two plastic trim collars. Turn the ignition switch to the run position and depress the tab below the key lock cylinder, while holding the tab pull the key and cylinder out of the column. Now the shift interlock cable can be removed. Reverse the procedure outlined for re-installing the new parts.
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Also see our repair blog on Jeep Liberty rear power window replacement.